September 18, 2015

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom furnishes the first reading for this weekend. This book was written in an effort to say that being faithful to God, and indeed worshipping the One God of Israel, represent not superstition but the greatest human wisdom.

To be convincing, the book obviously had to face the fact that evil exists in the world, because humans turn away from God and succumb to evil.

In this reading, the author of the book describes the intrigue often involved in evildoing. People given over to evil conspire against those who seek what is good. Evil people especially detest anyone who devoutly obeys God. If nothing else, the devout challenge evildoers. The devout prove that holiness is possible.

Christians often see in this passage, and in others similar to it in the Old Testament, a look ahead to Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

From the theological point of view, from the standpoint of a broader message in divine Revelation, this passage and others like it prefigure the identity and mission of Jesus, even if Jesus’ incarnation, which occurred centuries after Wisdom was composed, was not in the conscious mind of its author.

Nevertheless, all the details apply. Jesus was not without enemies. He personally was disliked. His Gospel was scorned. Still, Jesus was victorious.

For the second reading, the Church this weekend turns to the Epistle of St. James. This epistle never gives the name of its author. As four persons with the name of James appear in the New Testament, and possibly others by this name existed in the circle around Jesus, biblical scholars are unwilling to say who exactly wrote this work of Scripture.

It is unimportant. The test of inspiration does not in the last analysis rest on the specific identity of the writer alone, but rather its overall apostolic origin, how the Christian community long, long ago accepted the writing and how the Church officially has regarded it. The Church teaches, and has taught, that James is a divinely inspired work.

The reading is clear and practical. It, too, refers to wisdom. True wisdom shares in and reflects divine knowledge. Therefore, true wisdom is good because God is innocent of all malice. It seeks to find truth. It seeks to respect others. It seeks what is right and just.

St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading. This reading actually has two points. First, inevitable in the personal mission of Jesus was a confrontation with evil. The ultimate and most powerful of earthly realities, namely death itself, came to Jesus, but Jesus overcame all human evil as well as death. He is the victor.

The Apostles, while being the Lord’s special students, still were human. Human ambition and shortsightedness also entrapped them. They accepted that the kingdom would come, as Jesus taught, but they wanted to rank high when the kingdom’s glory arrived.

Jesus warned them that reward in the kingdom would not be automatic. It surely would not be thrust upon them. They would have to deserve the kingdom by resembling in every sense in their lives the life and sacrifice of the Master.

Reflection

Tragedies, personal such as illnesses, or those involving societies such as hurricanes or wars, remind us that human nature is flawed, that nature is unpredictable, that humans are vulnerable, and that people can, and terrifyingly do, commit evil.

Nonetheless, God offers us eternal life. And this is so despite the fact that we live in imperfect conditions and at times among people without principles. We ourselves sin.

God gives us the freedom to obey his will. He calls us to trust and to stand firm.

We defeat evil and we are blessed with everlasting life when we model our lives on the life of Jesus.

He is the example to be followed in living with evil in any form. His resurrection is our hope and promise. †

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